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The King’s Ears app review

king's ears titleBased on Katarina Jovanovic’s 2008 picture book The King Has Goat Ears, illustrated by Phillipe Béhà (Tradewinds Books), The King’s Ears app (Rascal Media, 2016; iOS only) adds music, movement, and interaction to this retelling of a Serbian folktale.

Tap your way through the story (which you can choose to have read aloud to you, or read silently to yourself) of King Boyan, who never lets his barbers leave the palace because of his embarrassing secret: underneath his mop of red hair, he has the ears of a goat. One barber, Igor, unable to contain this knowledge, shouts it into a hole, and that eventually, magically, lets the secret out. But it’s all okay in the end, as King Boyan finally embraces his unique attribute.

While you’re reading/hearing the story, there’s lots you can do to get involved. You can tap characters to make them move, including a particularly draggable bird. In many cases, tapping characters will make speech bubbles appear, and they’ll tell you what to do next. You can help Igor groom a cat, or help King Boyan select a hairstyle. (My favorite is a pair of braids reminiscent of Pippi Longstocking.)

king's ears cat king's ears haiistyle
When Igor is ready to burst with his secret, you can tap him to see the pressure building up in his head. (Igor’s face is delightfully expressive generally.) After you’ve made him shout his secret into the hole, you can rearrange the letters of that secret to your heart’s content.

king's ears letters

Often, the opportunities for interaction are closely connected to what’s happening in the text, so paying attention pays off. If you want to give a screen’s activities another try, there’s a button to reset it. And if you love one part of the story and would rather skip another section, there’s a thumbnail menu you can pull down to select a screen and jump to it.

Though most of the interactions are fairly simple, a few are more involved. At the point in the story where reeds grow from the ground, you can create a reed flute just like the characters, and even record a tune and play it back.

king's ears flute

On one screen, you can get the bird to drop and break eggs with a satisfying crack, though it takes some poking around to find the spot where this happens.

The sophisticated mixed-media illustrations are vibrant, and the sounds are relevant to the story, from the snipping scissors to the music of highly verbal flutes (you’ll see). Actor Terry Jones narrates with the expression of a seasoned storyteller, and jaunty, celebratory music accompanies the buoyant ending. All in all, it’s worth spending time with The King’s Ears — even if he thinks they look silly.

Available for iPad (requires iOS 7.0 or later). Compatible with iPad. Recommended for primary users.

Shoshana Flax About Shoshana Flax

Shoshana Flax, assistant editor for The Horn Book, Inc., is a former bookseller and holds an MFA in Writing for Children from Simmons College. She is a member of the Sydney Taylor Book Award committee.



  1. Thank you, Shoshana, for this perceptive, beautifully written, and positive review. I’m beside myself with happiness. Must eat something sweet and lie down to recover 🙂

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